Brad Stevens must be one heck of a motivator. For six years as head coach of the Butler Bulldogs, Brad Stevens led the underdogs to back-to-back National Championships. He recruited players that no one else wanted. He is basketball's Statue of Liberty, he took basketball's tired and poor and made them good, really good.
Stevens seems to be doing the same with these Boston Celtics. He has them believing in themselves, playing some defiant basketball, and rejecting the idea of tanking. Baxter Holmes wrote last week that Stevens is using a lot of the same schemes on the floor as Stevens' Butler teams. Stevens told Holmes, that at every level there is "Still the same basic ideas to winning."
Those ideas and also the attitude that Stevens has instilled has been of positivity and process. In some ways we have all been hypnotized by Stevens. The team is 8-12, but they are carrying themselves like they are 17-3. They are leading the Atlantic Division, and have a slew of home games this December that should help them continue the process of getting better and improving their record. With Rajon Rondo mending quickly, Stevens and the Celtics might end up looking even better once they have 20 more games under their belts.
Stevens' hypnoses of the media has also bled into the locker room. Jordan Crawford is playing a serviceable point guard. Gerald Wallace has quelled his post-game tantrums, Jared Sullinger is playing some great basketball, guys are seemingly accepting changing roles as Stevens shuffles the starting line-up. Brandon Bass is the best example of this. He was replaced by Kelly Olynyk, and then returned to the starting line-up after Olynyk got hurt. Bass played two great games offensively and defensively last week in winning efforts. A testament both to Bass and Stevens' ability to get his players to buy into the system.
Brad Stevens' demeanor and talent are a perfect fit for this group of underdogs who are seemingly starting to mesh. Stevens and a bunch of the Celtics cast-offs are used to having people not believe in them. It seems the team are galvanized around that thought, and Stevens is best man for this job. He might be the Celtics best asset, and considering the coach he replaced that's saying something.
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